Well before President Donald Trump called the opioid epidemic the “worst drug crisis in American history” and said his administration is declaring it a public health emergency, intervention pain specialists at Jacksonville Spine Center were helping patients find other non-addicting treatment options. “When we meet with a new or returning patient we always ask them first and foremost how is their pain level and what are they doing to address it,” said Dr. Christopher Roberts, founder of the Jacksonville Spine and Pain Center. “We want to make sure they are aware of all their treatment options beyond opioid pain medications.”
Knowing about treatment options is important information for patients to know because new regulations under consideration in Florida would limit doctors to writing prescriptions for three days’ worth of controlled substances, such as oxycodone, unless the practitioner decides a seven-day prescription is medically necessary to treat the patient’s pain as an acute medical condition. Health care practitioners would also be required to consult the database, known as the prescription drug monitoring program, before writing prescriptions for controlled substances.
“We’ve never wanted our patients to think their only option is taking pills for their pain when there are so many other options that are non-invasive that can be done within minutes in the office and last months if not years,” adds Dr. Roberts. “Especially because over time a patient can develop a tolerance to opioids and require higher and higher doses, which we know all too wellcan be dangerous if not deadly.” Dr. Roberts has been an innovator and longtime advocate of treatment options. He was the first physician in North Florida to perform Intradiscal Electrothermal Therapy (IDET), a minimally invasive treatment for spinal disc related chronic low back pain. He also specializes in the applications of Neuromodulation, more commonly known as spinal cord stimulation, and he currently serves as an educational author, speaker and clinical instructor of implantation workshops for Medtronic, Inc., one of the leading manufacturers of spinal cord stimulators.
There are also exciting new treatment options in the field of what is called regenerative medicine. So, if you’re looking for pain management options that either eliminate or significantly decrease the use of narcotic medication but you also don’t want to have to turn to surgery, or have had surgery but are still in pain, here are the top non-surgical treatments.
Injections of Steroids into Joints
Cortisone shots are most commonly injected into joints to help relieve pain and inflammation in areas such as your shoulder, hip, knee, ankle, elbow, spine and wrist. Injecting steroids allows doctors to deliver a high dose of medication directly to the problem area and usually are comprised of a corticosteroid medication and a local anesthetic.
Steroid injections are one of the most effective ways to decrease pain and improve function, yet they generally do not cure the illness. Because of potential side effects, the number of shots you can receive in one year generally is limited.
In general, Cortisone shots are a good option because they are a safe and effective way to decrease inflammation and reduce pain and the least invasive patient procedure.
Regenerative Medicine Techniques
Regenerative medicine now offers several solutions that offer relief to shoulder, hip and knee pain through means of natural healing. Regenerative medicine can renew and repair joints and improve their function using platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and stem cell therapy injections. Purified and concentrated platelets or stem cells are injected into damaged tissue to repair and regenerate painful joints. Regenerative medicine treatments allow people previously limited by joint pain to return to their normal activities without the limitations of chronic pain.
In general, this is an exciting treatment option because patients experience pain relief as the body works with its new ability to heal and regenerate itself. Some patients need only one treatment to ensure results, while others respond best after only two or three injections of PRP or stem cells.
Cooled Radiofrequency Ablations
This procedure focuses on interrupting the pain signals to the brain by using radiofrequency energy. Pain relief is achieved by using a combination of thermal energy as well as electrical fields to deactivate the sensory nerves that supply those joints.
There are two primary types of radiofrequency ablation:
- A medial branch neurotomy (ablation) affects the nerves carrying pain from the facet joints
- A lateral branch neurotomy (ablation) affects nerves that carry pain from the sacroiliac joints.
These nerves do not control any muscles or sensation in the arms or legs, so a heat lesion poses little danger of negatively affecting those areas. The medial branch nerves do control small muscles in the neck and mid or low back, but loss of these nerves has not proved harmful.
“Our goal is to get our patients as much pain relief as possible so they can get on with their lives without having to worry about becoming dependent on their medication,” said Dr. Roberts. “There are just so many options available for treatment today and who knows what tomorrow will bring with regenerative medicine, they shouldn’t hesitate to speak with their doctor or intervention pain specialist.”
A Spinal Chord Stimulator
Spinal nerve stimulators use electrical pulses to block the pain signal to the brain. They’ve been used for decades, but previous models were bulky and needed frequent charging. This summer, the FDA approved the smallest implantable device made by Medtronic, it’s approximately the size of a pacemaker. Most patients could experience a 50% reduction in their pain. Spinal cord stimulators are best for people with back and limb pain, who may have failed back or disk surgery, and other conditions. According to a CBS Interactive report, about 88,000 spinal nerve stimulators have been implanted worldwide – a number that’s expected to more than double in the next decade.
Pain Experts Can Bring Relief
The medical experts at Jacksonville Spine Center can provide an accurate diagnosis of lower back pain and recommend a variety of treatments and procedures. Whether your pain is temporary or becoming more severe over time, it’s important to discuss treatment options with your doctor before it limits your mobility and ability to live your life.
For more information on lower back pain or for any other pain relief procedures, call the Jacksonville Spine and Pain Center for an appointment. Jacksonville Spine and Pain Center is also a Veterans Choice Program. Call 904-223-3321 to get started today.